tv Yale University Commencement Address CSPAN May 31, 2014 8:00pm-8:31pm EDT
>> more of this year's commencement speeches from around the country great we will hear from secretary of state, power, jeh samantha johnson, and federal reserve chair janet yellen. in 1966, john kerry spoke as a graduate at yield university's class day. this year, he delivered the annual class they lecture during yale's commencement weekend. he stroke about the struggles of the 1960's generation and he urged the graduates to keep faith in the government possibility to break gridlock. this is 30 minutes.
[applause] >> thank you. thank you. thank you very much. thank you. thank you, thank you, thank you. i think winston churchill said who give aly people standing ovation are the ones who are wanting to -- their underwear. [laughter] members, parents, siblings who came here under the false impression that there , and someree food dan, wherever you are, probably at a fire hydrant somewhere,
members of the 2013 ncaa champion ice hockey team -- [applause] distinguished guests and graduates of the 2014, i really am privileged to be able to be here and share the celebration of the celebration of this day with you, especially 48 years after standing up right here as a very intimidated senior, wondering what i was going to say. you are graduating today as the most diverse class in yale's long history. or as they call it in the nba, donald sterling's worst nightmare. [laughter] [applause] thank you for such a generous introduction. josh did not mention that he entered for me at the state department last summer.
ned for me at the state department lessor. [applause] hold on a minute. [laughter] i learned that he is not afraid to talk truth to power, or semi-truth. on his last day, he walked up to me and was brutally honest. he said mr. secretary, j.e. sucks. [applause] actually, on the last day at the state department, he asked if i would come here today and deliver a message that his classmates really needed to hear. here it goes. you still owe, josh money from that road trip last fall. [laughter] [applause] i have to tell you, it is really
fun for me to be back here on the old campus, i am accompanied by a classmate of mine. we were on the soccer team and he served as ambassador to italy recently, david thorne of. my daughter, vanessa, graduated in the class of 1999. i know what a proud moment this is for your parents, but my friends, the test will be if they still feel this way next may if you live at home. i am really happy you made it back from myrtle beach. [laughter] as if you had not already logged enough take time -- keg time. remember, 4.0 is a good gpa but it is a lousy blood-alcohol level. [laughter]
i love the hats. we did not have been when i was here. i love the hats. they are outrageous. they are spectacular. this may be the only event that pharrell can crash and go unnoticed. [laughter] i have been looking around. i have seen a couple of red sox hats out there. [applause] few of thosen a dreaded interlocking ends -- n's and y's. that is ok. i said diversity is important. it is also a way for me to tell who roots for the yankees, and was graduating with distinction. [laughter] [applause] here is the deal. learned that and i i was not everyone's first
choice to be up youhere. [laughter] when yale announced that i would be speaking, someone wrote, i hope they give out five hour energy to hhelp everyone stay awake. don't worry, folks. i promise not to be one minute over four hours. haven'telse wrote, i screwed up as badly as the secretary of state -- yet. all i can say is, stay tuned. my favorite comment was this. yalereally proud that a secretary of state -- i should've stopped reading right there, because he went on to butt-ugly.t he is [laughter] there go my dreams of being on yale's 50 most beautiful list. [laughter]
[applause] it really is a privilege for me to share this celebration with you. i am forewarned that no one remembers who delivers their graduation speech. all i remember about our speaker in 1966 is that he was eloquent, insightful, really good looking. anyway, one thing that i promise you -- [laughter] one thing i promise you, i will stay away from the tired clichés of commencement, things like do what makes you happy, don't use the laundry room and saybrook. [applause] [laughter] that is about all i will say about that. [laughter] , "time"ter we graduated
magazine came out with his famous man of the year issue. , "time" did not pick one man or one woman. they picked our entire generation. "time" expressed high hopes for us. they predicted that we would cure the common cold and cancer, too. they predicted we would build smog-free cities and we would end poverty and war once and for all. i know what you are thinking -- we really crushed it. [laughter] question. did my generation get lost? well, that is a conversation for another time. -- me put one theory to rest it is not true that everyone in my generation experimented with flomax,lthough between viagra, now we do. [applause]
[laughter] i did have some pretty creative classmates back then. e., of my good friends in j. i will set it right for you guys right now. one of my friends had at least two harebrained ideas. start up was a little built on the notion that if people had a choice, they would pay more to mail a package and have it arrive the very next day. crazy, right? today, that startup is called fedex and by the way, it was thated in j.e which means j.e. rules. [cheering] the other nutty idea was to restart something called the yale flying club. admittedly, this was more of a
scheme to get us out of class and off campus. i basically spent my senior year majoring in flying, practicing takeoffs and landings at an airport. responsible? no, but i would not have missed it. one of the best lessons i learned here is that mark twain was absolutely right. never let school get in the way of an education. , did not know what in the time but yell tommy to finish what you start, and that is one thing that clearly separates us from harvard. [laughter] after all, a lot of those guys don't even graduate. zuckerberg,mark matt damon, what the hell have they ever amounted to? [laughter] for all i learned that yell, i have to tell you that the best piece of advice i got was one word from my 89-year-old mother. i will never forget, sitting by her bedside and telling her i
decided to run for president. nd andueezed my ha said, integrity. integrity, john. member always, integrity. maybe that tells you a lot of what she thought of politics, but in a complicated world full of close calls that could way, what keeps you awake at night is not so much you got the decision right or wrong, it is whether you made your decision for the right right reasons. integrity. the best piece of advice about diplomacy did not come for my international relations class but from my father, who was in the foreign service. he told me that diplomacy was about being able to see the world through the eyes of someone else, to understand their aspirations and assumptions. perhaps that is another word for empathy, but whatever it is, i
will tell you, sitting here on one of the most gorgeous afternoons in new haven as you graduate, listening makes a difference. not just in foreign ministries, theon the streets and in suits, and on the social media networks. class of 2014, as corny as it may sound, remember that your parents are not just your day as spectators. they are here as teachers. even if it is counterintuitive, it is not a bad idea to stay enrolled in their course as long as you can. gratefulmy part, i am to yield because i learned a lot here. in all of the ways that a great university can teach. there is one phrase from one class above all that for some reason was indelibly stamped into my consciousness. perhaps it is because i spent almost 30 years in the united states senate saying applied --
seeing it applied again and again. and the law school auditorium, my professor said simply, all politics is a reaction to felt needs. what i thought he meant is that things only get done in public life and the people who want something demand nothing left and the people who make it happen decide that they can do nothing less. those felt needs have driven every movement and decision i have witnessed in politics since. from south africa a couple of decades ago to the arab string -- spring a few years ago to our own communities, were same-sex couples refuse to be told by their government who they can love. in 1963, i remember walking out of the white home -- dwight hall one evening after an active escape the most impassioned and
eloquently i have ever heard. feel the needs to to engage in the struggle for civil rights right here in our own country. that is why, just steps from here, right over there on high street, we lined up buses that drove students from yale and elsewhere south to be part of the mississippi voter registration drive and help break the back of jim crow. ultimately, we forced washington to ensure through the law that our values were not mere words. we saw congress respond to this felt need and pass the civil rights act and the voting rights act, and life in america did change. not only did landmark civil rights advances grow out of the citians and marches, -- sit-ins and marches, but we saw the clean air act and the safe drinking water act and all of it
come out of earth day in 1970. we saw women refusing to take a back seat, forcing institutions to respond, producing title ix and the gale university that quickly transformed from the male bastion of 1966. ofizens, including veterans the war, spoke up and brought our troops home from vietnam. the fact is that what leaps out at me now is the contrast between those heady days and today. right or wrong and like it or not, and certainly some people did not like it, back then institutions were hard-pressed to avoid addressing the felt needs of our country great indeed, none of what i talked about happened overnight. the pace of change was different from today. the same fall that my class walked in as freshmen, nelson mandela walked into prison.
it was not until 30 years later, when my daughter walked through these gates for the first time, that mandela was his country's president. when i was a senior, the debate over the growing war in vietnam was becoming all-consuming, but it took another seven years before combat ended for our country and more than 25,000 lives. it was not until the year 2000 that we finally made peace and normalized relations. now, amazingly, we have four be enemies -- more vietnamese studying in america than from almost any other country in the world. daring journey of progress played over years, decades, and generations. today, the felt needs are growing at a faster pace than ever before, piling up on top of each other while the response in legislatures or foreign capitals
seems nonexistent or frozen. it is not that the needs are not felt. it is that people around the world seemed to have grown used to seeing systems or institutions failing to respond. the result is an obvious, , if notg frustration exasperation, with institutional governors. the problem is today's institutions are not keeping up or even catching up to the felt needs of our time. eyes, difficult decisions are deferred or avoided altogether. some people even give up before they tried because they just don't believe they can make a difference. the sum total of all of this in action is stealing the future from all of us. just a few examples, from little too big. a train between washington and new york that can go 150 miles per hour, but lacking modern
infrastructure, goes that fast for only 80 miles of the trip. an outdated american grit which can sell energy from one end of the country to the other. growing moree urgent with 97% of scientists telling us for years of the imperative to act. the solution is staring us in the face -- make energy policy choices now that will allow america to lead a 6 trillion dollar market. yet, we still remain gridlocked. , urgentlyn reform needed to unleash the full power of millions who live here and sensible and both fair. on the world stage, you will not escape it. even more urgency. we see huge, growing populations in places that offer little
education, little economic or political opportunity. you are older than half their population. 40% of their population is younger than yale's next incoming class erie if we cannot galvanize action to recognize their felt needs, if we don't do more to attack extreme poverty, provide opportunities and jobs, we invite instability and i promise you, radical extremism is all too ready to fill the vacuum left behind. what should be clear to is perhapsnd it what makes our current predicament so frustrating, is that none of our problems are without solutions. none of them. but neither will they solve themselves. for all of us, it is a question of will power, not capacity.
it is a matter of refusing to fall to the cynicism and apathy that have always been the mortal enemies of progress. withquires keeping faith the ability of institutions, of america, to do big things when the moment the man said. remember what -- moment demands it. remember what nelson mandela said when confronted by pessimism and the long march to freedom. it always seems impossible until it is done. -- thing i know for sure these and other felt needs will we,r be addressed if you, fall victim to be slow suffocation of conventional wisdom. on tuesday, i sat in the state department with some young foreign service officers. one of that's something to me that i have been thinking about all week. he was not much older than any of you. said, we have come from an
area where our lives and hierarchies to an era where powerless and networks. now we're wrestling with the fact that those hierarchies are unsettled by the new power. every one of you and your parents have mobile devices here today. they represent more than your ability to put a picture on facebook or instagram. they are one of the powerful new makesments of change that hierarchies uncomfortable, because you can't communicate with everybody, anywhere, all the time. that is how you beat conventional wisdom. that is what makes me certain that felt needs are not just problems. they are opportunities. i'm convinced that if you're willing to challenge the conventional wisdom, which you should be after this education, you can avoid the dangerous
byproducts of in difference, hopelessness, and my least favorite, cynicism. ours a difference that says problems are so great, let's not even try. we have to reject that. it is hopelessness that says our best days are behind us. i could not disagree more. it is cynicism that says we are powerless to affect real change and that the era of american leadership is over. i don't believe that for a second and neither does president obama. it we refuse to limoneira fusion -- limit our vision of the possibilities of our country and so should you. together, we have to refuse to accept the downsizing of america's role in a very complicated world. i happen to love ts eliot's "love song of j offered -- alfred pouffa" and i challenge you to never end up fretfully
musing, do i dare disturb the universe? in a minute there is time for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse. class of 2014, your job is to disturb the universe. you have to reject the notion that the problems are too big and too complicated, so don't weigh in. you do not have the luxury of just checking out and it does not matter what profession you wind up then, what community you live in, where you are, what you are doing. you do not have that luxury. one of the greatest rewards of being secretary of state is getting to see with my own eyes how much good news there actually is in the world. how many good people there are out there every single day, courageously fighting back. the truth is that everywhere i go, i see or hear about an extraordinary number of individual acts of courage and
bravery, all of which defy the odds. all by people who simply refused to give up and to start with a lot less opportunity than you do. you can see this in the lonely human rights activist who struggles against searing and -- against tyranny and a dictator until they are defeated. you see it in the democracy activist who goes to jail trying to ensure that an election is free and transparent. you see it in a civil rights lawyer who suffers scorn and isolation for standing against bigotry, racism, and intolerance. i am literally in all of -- in awe of the courage that ordinary, anonymous people demonstrate in the most difficult circumstances available. in an african jail, a north thean gulag, facing
cruelest persecution, and lonely isolation. many of these people just quietly disappear. they lose their lives. they never become an international cause or global hero. her rich is not a strong enough is a strongourage enough -- is not a strong enough word for them. commonhope they have in with you is that they refuse to be complacent and in different to what is going on around them or should be going on around them. that is the most important lesson i hope you will take with you when you leave yell. -- yale. have them,f you who your loans are not the only burden you graduate with today. you have had the privilege of a jail education -- a yale education. no matter where you come from or where you go next, the four years you have spent here are in
introduction to responsibility and your education requires more of you than serving yourself. it calls on you to give back in whatever way you can. it requires you to serve the world around you, and yes, to make a difference. that is what has always set america apart -- our generosity, our humanity, our idealism. last year, i walked through the devastation of the typhoon that hit the philippines. usaid andilitary and regular volunteers got there before countries who live a lot closer. we went without being asked and without asking for anything in return. today, americans are helping to bring that community back to life. when bo boko haram kidnapped hundreds of girls, the government did not turn to other powerful countries for help, and
by the way, they are not offering. it was my privilege to stand they48 years ago on class -- day. before coming here, i reread that speech. a lot of it was about vietnam, but one line jumped out at me -- an1966, i suggested that excess of isolation had led to an excess of interventionism. today, we hear a different tune in congress -- some and on some campuses and we face the opposite concern. we cannot allow a hangover from the excessive interventionism of the last decade to lead to an excess of isolationism in this decade. , mosttell you for certain of the rest of the world does not lie awake at night, worrying about america prosperous and spirit of they worry about what
would happen in our -- america's presence. they worry about what would happen in our absence. never forget that what makes america different from other nations is not a common bloodline were a common religion or ideology or common heritage. what makes us different is that we are united by an uncommon idea -- that we are all created equal and all in doubt with inalienable rights. america is not just a country like other countries. , and we, all idea of us, you, get to fill it out over time. presidentwhen the grants you those diplomas, listen to what he says. he won't say what is said at most schools. that your degree admits you to
all its rights and privileges. say, your degree admits you to all its rights and responsibilities. it means we need to renew that responsibility over and over again, every day. it is not a one-time decision. participation is the best antidote to pessimism and, ultimately, cynicism. i asked you today on a celebrity afternoon asratory you think about the future, remember what happened after the founding fathers finished their hard work at the constitutional convention in philadelphia. ben franklin, tired, walked out at night, down the steps of the hall. it woman called to him. she said, tell us dr. franklin, what we have? a monarchy or a republic? he answered, a republic -- if
you can keep it. last of 2014, we know what you have. a world-class education. if you will use it. congratulations to you. good luck, and god bless. [applause] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] >> samantha power is the u.s. ambassador to the united nations. see is this your's commencement speaker at the university of ve